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September 2021

PFAS in Skin Care

A recent study analyzed 231 skin care products and found significant levels of elemental fluorine in more than half. Elemental fluorine can come from minerals such as mica or from substances in the perfluoro-alkyl class (PFAS). A subset of 29 products were further tested and various concentrations of the PFAS class chemicals were found in all of them, despite only about 8% of them disclosing PFAS in the ingredients list.

Products intended to stay on the skin, such as foundation or lip products, often advertised as “long-lasting,” seemed to have higher concentrations of PFAS. The same products often include pigments and PFAS chemicals are sometimes used to aid pigment dispersion and durability. When PFAS is a part of the pigment formulation, it may be left off the ingredient list. Hidden chemicals of concern are among the reasons that brands should manage their supply chains closely.

A recent INC magazine interview with Lauren Groper, CEO Repurpose, a Safer Made portfolio company, provides a good perspective on ingredient and supply chain transparency. While in a different product category, Repurpose successfully removed PFAS substances from its products.

Benzene and Benzophenone in Sunscreen

Recent reports revealed the presence of carcinogenic chemicals in sunscreens. The two chemicals of concern in question are benzene and benzophenone.

Benzene, a solvent used during manufacturing, was found in some batches of Neutrogena and Aveeno aerosol products, which caused Johnson & Johnson to issue a recall. The chemical was not intentionally added, highlighting again the challenges brands may face in managing the chemicals in their products or manufacturing processes.

Benzophenone, a potential carcinogen, allergen, and endocrine disruptor, was found by another recent study in sun screen products, as a degradation product of octocrylene, a common FDA approved chemical sun screen active ingredient.

The FDA treats sun screen active ingredients as drugs, and that makes for a stringent regulatory approval process of new active ingredients. Other jurisdictions such as the EU or Australia treat sunscreen active ingredients as cosmetic products and subject them to a less demanding regulatory regime. The EU has 27 sun screen active ingredients approved, compared to 16 in the US. The FDA is expected to soon publish an updated set of rules for sun screens, the result of a review process that started in 2019. In addition to the current mineral based active ingredients, we would love to see nature inspired safe alternatives such as gadusol or melanin in products.EPA

Bans Insecticide Chlorpyrifos

The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced that it plans to ban insecticide chlorpyrifos use on food crops because of the evidence linking the chemical to neurological damage in children. The proposed rule would still allow the use of chlorpyrifos in non-food applications like lawns.


80 Acres Farms, a vertical farming company focused on pesticide-free produce, has raised $160 million.

44.01, a carbon removal startup, has raised $5 million.

AgBiome, developer of microbial-based products, including a fungicide for disease control in a variety of crops, has raised $116 million.

Apeel, maker of a casing for fruits and vegetables that keeps moisture in and oxygen out to preserve them longer, has raised $250 million.

Cirkul, a company that produces flavor cartridges that can be inserted into its reusable water bottles, raised $30 million.

Comet Bio, a company turning crop waste into high-quality ingredients, including syrups, has raised $22 million.

Electric Hydrogen, a renewable energy startup, raised $24 million.

Glossier, a cosmetics brand, has raised $80 million to open brick-and-mortar stores.

Gross-Wen Technologies, a wastewater treatment technology that uses algae to clean wastewater, has raised $6.5 million.

Gr3n, a plastic recycling company based in Switzerland, has raised €6.3 million.

Hello Cake, a sexual wellness company, has raised $4 million.

High Beauty, a skincare brand formulated with hempseed oil, raised $4.17 million.

Knowde, a marketplace for ingredients, polymers, and chemistry, has raised $72 million.

Mighty Buildings, a company building homes using 3D printing and robotics, has raised $22 million.

Novi Connect, an ingredients database and software that helps brands build transparent and sustainable products, has raised $10.3 million.

Shimmy, a hand sanitizer brand making touchless dispensers for household use, has raised $3 million.

SOLASTA Bio, a company developing nature-inspired pesticides, has raised €1.5 million.

Solugen, a company making chemicals from custom enzymes and renewable feedstock, has raised $357 million.

Yofix Probiotics, a vegan yogurt startup, raised $3.5 million.

IPOs and Acquisitions

Allbirds, a natural materials shoes brand, is reportedly planning a $2 billion IPO.

Amyris, a biotechnology company supplying sustainable ingredients acquired Olika, a hand sanitizer and wellness company with reusable packaging.

Caribou Biosciences, a CRISPR genome editing biotech, has filed for an IPO. The company raised $156 million in venture funding from investors.

Eat Just, a plant-based egg alternative company, is reportedly planning a $3 billion IPO.

Fabletics, the workout-apparel brand backed by Kate Hudson, is preparing for an IPO that it hopes will value it at more than $5 billion.

West Lane Capital Partners acquired a majority interest in Simply Organic Beauty, a developer and provider of professional, organic, and clean beauty products.

WindStar Medical, a provider of non-prescription health-care products, acquired L.A.B. Cosmetics, a Hamburg, Germany based clean beauty products company, for an undisclosed sum.

Also Noted

  • Study founds high levels of PFAS in indoor air, especially in schools, and Maine bans PFAS

  • Lead is finally out of gasoline

  • Childhood leukemia linked to pesticide exposure

  • Harmful chemicals and climate change are connected issues as mentioned here, here, and here.


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